Carlyle Boosting Willcom Stake

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Private equity firm Carlyle Group LLC plans to raise its stake in personal handyphone system, or PHS, service provider Willcom Inc by acquiring shares in a private placement, the financial daily Nikkei said in its Saturday edition.

PHS is a low-cost wireless network system used mostly in Asia, particularly in Japan, China and Taiwan.

The paper said Carlyle would boost its interest in Willcom to about 65 percent from 60 percent, reducing the ownership stakes of its partners Kyocera Corp (6971.T) and KDDI Corp (9433.T) from the current 30 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

Willcom will start trials of a new PHS service with transmission speeds of at least 20 megabits per second — more than 20 times as fast as current service — in central Tokyo around the end of next month, expanding to Osaka and Nagoya in October, Nikkei said.

Willcom needs about 140 billion yen ($1.43 billion) to build the infrastructure for the next service by fiscal 2013, Nikkei said.

In February, Carlyle abandoned a search for a new Willcom investor, a source familiar with the plan told Reuters. ($1=98.0920 yen)

(Reporting by Gerald E. McCormick; editing by Richard Chang and Andre Grenon)